(Credit: CBS Interactive)
While there are plenty of user-interface changes (we'll get to those), some of the back-end changes are most impactful to the Gingerbread recipe, especially those that will boost mobile gaming and make two-way video chatting open to all.
On the gaming front, for example, developers will be able to directly access Open GLS and audio and take advantage of Gingerbread's gyroscope support to create slicker, faster-moving games. Offering developers VoIP via SIP, Android 2.3 also gives application authors the ability to easily build two-way internet video calls into their apps.
In multimedia, support for the WebM video compression standard that Google spearheaded may play a role in set standards for high-definition video playback. WebM makes it possible to play videos hosted on YouTube or other websites from the Android browser.
Near Field Communications (NFC) is another notable enhancement. An onboard NFC Reader application will be able to scan NFC tags. According to Google, you would typically scan an NFC tag with your Android app for a shortcut to a website whose URL is embedded in the tag. This is similar to what you could do with a QR code, except that NFC also requires some hardware compatibility (think Bluetooth). The Nexus S will have a baked-in NFC chip. (For an example of one implementation, check out our hands-on field test of an NFC payment solution.)
How one-touch word selection will work in Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).(Credit: Google)
Back on the interface side, Android 2.3 users can expect to see a multi-touch virtual keyboard for quickly entering symbols with on-screen keyboard shortcut combinations. If you make a mistake, Gingerbread will let you switch to voice mode to make a correction. Google has also revamped its text-selection workflow to make it faster to get at text with just one touch (in Android 2.2, or Froyo, you touch and hold a word to start selecting text).
We also welcome the new camera feature that lets you shoot and record video of the front-facing camera, not just the (higher resolution) rear-facing camera.
- Theme and user interface touch-ups
- Redesigned virtual keyboard with different font
- Switch to voice mode to make text corrections
- Multi-touch capabilities to enter keyboard shortcuts
- One-touch text selection
- Power manager closes some CPU-hogging apps
- More accessible power management app
- Internet calling via SIP
- NFC support
- New download manager
- Access to front-facing camera from camera app
- Enhancements for game developers
- API support for sensors including gyroscope, gravity and barometer
- New audio effects for developers, including sound mixing
- Support for VP8/WebM video compression
- Camera API access for developers
You can read up on more details in the Android 2.3/Gingerbread SDK highlights and in the release notes for developers. As for when you'll get Gingerbread over-the-air on your Android phone, here's what we know.